“It was good.”
In scripture, these words are used multiple times by the Father to denote His approval of the Creation. From the arrival of light and darkness, earth and sea, to the abundance of plants and animals, the majesty unfolding could likely be described in grander terms. Yet, the meaning is clear. The Plan of Salvation unfolded, the exaltation of God’s family was about to begin, and it was good.
Yet, it wasn’t long before something appeared that was not good and God took notice.What was it? The answer is found in Genesis 2:18.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;”
Loneliness was thus designated as the first unacceptable thing. From Adam’s brief solitary existence to the final descent of Christ’s Atonement, in which He was required to experience the withdrawal of the Father, to us today, loneliness stands as a crippling force that has both spiritual and physical consequences. As a study by Brigham Young University even suggests, loneliness and social isolation can increase your risk of mortality, ie. death.
It is likely, and I am even certain, that we have all experienced loneliness. I know I have and in those moments I have often turned to the scriptures. However, I once had a frustrating experience with the Topical Guide (I recognize how strange that sounds) and it forced me to change the way I sought refuge from my loneliness.
First created as a labor of faith by teachers in the Church Educational System and full-time missionaries, the Topical Guide is a scriptural index containing a collection of over 3,000 categories and 50,000 verses. It has been used for almost 40 years as a powerful resource to help Church members study the scriptures.
Yet I found myself wringing my hands together as I was flipping through its pages. I knew what I was looking for and I knew I wouldn’t find it. There was nothing to find, because there are only a few small lines of text under the category “Loneliness.”
See Brotherhood and Sisterhood ; Fellowshipping ; Holy Ghost, Mission of
I’d looked dozens of times over the past months. Each time, I had some wild hope there would be something else. Not solutions in fellowshipping or reminders about the Holy Ghost, but examples of people who had suffered this gnawing, maddening loneliness I was. While it is self-admittedly not a comprehensive guide, the Topical Guide inevitably made me sad and even more lonely.
In the back of my head, I knew I would have to go and find my own answers in the scriptures. As generally happens when I’m in a bad mood, I felt more annoyed at that prospect and closed my scriptures. But later, after hours in my bed listening to the ceiling fan whir, I became excited about the prospect of creating my own entry in the Topical Guide. Here’s what I came up with, along with a little printable you can use to put in your scriptures.
Adam & Eve (Genesis 2:8, 21-25 | Moses 3:18 | Genesis 4:1-10 | Moses Chps. 3-5 )
The loneliness of Adam did not end with the Creation of Eve. Not only did they face the ultimate separation from Heavenly Father after the Fall, but they were the first to experience, well, everything. How lonely must it have been for Eve when she went through her first pregnancy, her first labor. There were no internet support groups or baby books full of advice.
Or how about when the first murder occurred and Adam and Eve were faced with the realization that one of their sons had killed the other? While they had each other, and direction from heaven, surely the mantle of first humans often caused loneliness.
Job (The Book of Job, Job 16)
Job faces horrific circumstances; he loses his family, his money, his health. In the midst of his pain, he feels distanced from God and faces scorn from his friends who question his face and invite him to curse God. In Job 16:7, he says he would have tried to comfort them if the situation was reversed and then asserts how they made him feel by saying “thou hast made desolate all my company.”
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8:20-22, Jeremiah 9:1, Jeremiah 15:15-18, Jeremiah 16)
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet of God, with specific messages of disaster for the people. This was not a popular message and an insecure Jeremiah had to rely on the strength of the Lord to share it. In Jeremiah 16, the Lord tells Jeremiah that he should not take a wife or have children, for they would be destroyed. Due to the extreme wickedness around him, Jeremiah was instructed not to enter into any home, whether they were feasting or mourning.
Jeremiah would not know the warmth and comfort of family and community. He was mocked on every hand. Eventually, he would mourn deeply as the people he was called to serve were destroyed.
Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-18)
Hannah’s heart was broken by infertility. Though loved by her husband, she remained barren for years. In the scriptures it says she experienced “bitterness of soul” and fret, refusing to eat and weeping year after year. Despite her husband’s attempt to comfort her, she could only cry out in her heart to the Lord that she would offer up her son to Him if she could become pregnant. In fact, she becomes so despondent that her husband wonders if she is drunk.
Hannah eventually would have her son, Samuel, who she gave to the Lord when he was young, and went on to bear three more sons and two daughters.
Martha (Luke 10:39-42)
Martha of the New Testament is often used as a negative example. She is the woman who chastised her sister and was thus chastised by the Lord. Yet, she was a woman of dedicated service who gave her all to her work without help. She wasn’t simply cleaning the floor. Indeed the Lord doesn’t tell her that the service she is doing is unnecessary or unappreciated. His soft rebuke simply reminds her that her sister Mary has also chosen “that good part” (note it doesn’t say better).
Nephi (2 Nephi 4)
Nephi often faced criticism and even danger from his older brothers and often shouldered the task of helping his father lead the family in the journeys. After Lehi’s death, his family begins to fall apart yet again. It is in this set of circumstances that Nephi cries out to the Lord in despair over his own weaknesses and his inability to overcome them.
Abish (Alma 19)
Abish is only one of three women in the Book of Mormon mentioned by name. A convert, she lives for years in secret, unable to share her beliefs of express them. When King Lamoni, Ammon, the King’s wife, and all those around them, faint, she is the only one left standing. She rushes from house to house in hope, excited to share what has happened through the Lord, but finds that people begin arguing about the great evil that has just happened.
Due to the contention that occurs, “she was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto tears.”
Mormon & Moroni (Mormon 6:16-22, Moroni 1)
Mormon’s cries for his people are some of the saddest in scripture. Having tried for years to help change their hearts and leading them in battle, Mormon witnesses the destruction of his entire people. He is killed in battle, leaving his son Moroni to wander the land for years to come, fleeing from those who would do him harm.
In Moroni 8:4, Moroni seems to express his hopelessness when he says, “Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.” This is made even more clear when Moroni finishes abridging the record of the Jaredites and expresses his surprise that he his still alive.
“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.”
Joseph Smith (D&C 121, JS-H 1:21-23)
Joseph Smith, even today, is a hotly contested figure. In his life, he was persecuted, ridiculed, imprisoned, and ultimately martyred. Yet no moment of loneliness seems to stand out more when speaking of Brother Joseph than his time in Liberty Jail. Imprisoned in horrid conditions for almost five months, Joseph petitioned the Lord in great distress.
Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:38-40, John 16:32, Matthew 27:46)
No words could do justice to the example of our Savior, but Elder Jeffrey R. Holland comes close:
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.